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NATO's Next Move

A Conversation with Jens Stoltenberg

Jens Stoltenberg

  • Country: Norway
  • Title: NATO Secretary General
  • Education: University of Oslo
  • Known For: Leading Norway as Prime Minister during the 2011 Oslo terror attacks
  • Website: NATO Biography

After serving as Norway’s prime minister from 2005 to 2013, Jens Stoltenberg took over as the 13th Secretary General of NATO this past March. As his tenure began, Russia was still fomenting unrest in Ukraine and the Islamic State (also called ISIS) was wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, a revolution in cyberwarfare and other emerging threats challenged the alliance and its partners. In other words, Stoltenberg’s plate was full from the start, but he has also pledged to modernize NATO and how it responds to threats. In April, he spoke with Foreign Affairs Deputy Web Editor Brian O’Connor in Washington.

How has the challenge of dealing with the Ukraine crisis affected your time on the job so far? It has framed my time as secretary general. Because the annexation of Crimea, the Russian violation of international law, and the Russian support for the separatists and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine has been at the top of our agenda, of course. My responsibility has been to make sure that NATO responds to this behavior. And we are responding. We are now implementing the biggest increase in our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. We are doubling the size of the NATO response force. We are making it more ready and more prepared so the lead elements will be able to move within as little as 48 hours. And we are responding by adapting the NATO force structure to what we have seen Russia do in Ukraine.

There have been calls for NATO members to increase their defense spending, but there is still a gap between what has been called for and what is being spent. What is NATO doing to close that gap? NATO has made a strong commitment to stop cuts and to start increasing defense spending, with members moving toward two percent of GDP for defense over the next decade. This is a very strong commitment, and for me, it has been a top priority in

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